A Short History
Book Reach was launched by a retired primary school teacher, Doreen Johnstone, in early 2013. Over a 50-year career, Doreen taught in schools and managed education programmes in England, Malta, Kenya, Singapore, Nepal and Malaysia, where she now lives. From 2007 – 2010, she worked as an advisor to Nepal’s Ministry of Education and built up a broad network of Nepali education officials and teachers – who now form the ‘backbone’ of Book Reach.
Doreen’s personal links with schools across Asia have put her in a unique position to act as a conduit of books and resources from these schools to rural schools in Nepal. In 2013, Doreen visited Singapore’s Tanglin School, where she had worked in the 1970s and 80s, and asked the chief librarian, Jacqueline Makselon, for support. Permission was duly granted and books from their Infant and Junior libraries began to pile up.
A freight agent was enlisted who could provide some charitable discounts, and in August 2013, the first consignment of books was dispatched to Kathmandu. Subsequent consignments, including books from schools in Kuala Lumpur, arrived in March and May 2014.
Once in Kathmandu the books used to be stored in the Department of Education building in Sanothimi, but from 2016 they were transported directly from the airport down to Makwanpur district. From there the books are personally delivered to the beneficiary schools by Doreen or one of her local counterparts. Unlike some projects, which tend to ‘dump’ books at their recipient schools, Book Reach consults with the teachers who will use them, and Doreen runs short training workshops to help them catalogue their books and allocate them to appropriate classes. As most of the teachers already know Doreen, these reunions inevitably bring great joy alongside the books!
Book Reach supplies library furniture in the form of shelving units, round low tables, cushions and carpets. This facility is now in 11 schools and allows the books to be enjoyed & used to their optimum.
Doreen requires all head-teachers to sign a short contract with Book Reach, committing them to a set of guiding principles on book maintenance and library management.
Mr Krishna Gopal Shrestha of Adhunik Secondary School in Hetauda has agreed to be the Country Project Manager of Book Reach Nepal. He is generously assisted by Mr Dipesh Joshi, headmaster of Navodaya School, Hetauda.
In Book Reach’s initial target areas in Hetauda, the project has already established a ‘cluster’ of seventeen schools committed to propagating a reading culture. Meetings, competitions and reading activities are launched by the head-teachers of all these schools to expand and coordinate their individual libraries.
The project is confident that the example of these ‘model schools’ will help to inspire further initiatives to promote literacy and language teaching in neighbouring schools.
When funding allows, library furniture – including shelving, tables, chairs, carpets and cushions – are made and supplied to the project schools along with their consignments of books.
Following the recent registration of Book Reach in Malaysia, it has been decided to extend a small proportion of the flow of discarded library books to needy schools in Sabah. Kirsten Gallagher of the Alice Smith (Primary) in KL has been the only school approached so far and it will not be until next year that two or three Primary schools within an hour of Kota Kinablau will be chosen as recipients. But there is still much to be done to settle the nepali receiving schools since the earthquake last year and work on their inter-school management.